The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do you know when your dough is properly fermented during the bulk ferment?

icantbakeatall's picture

How do you know when your dough is properly fermented during the bulk ferment?

I'm super confused about how to know when a bread is properly fermented during the bulk ferment phase, before you put it in the fridge or shape it for baking. Thanks!

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

There are many different variables that will shape the answer to your question, and without further information there’s not going to be a very good answer.  Some of these variables include (but are not limited to):

  1. The maturity and strength of your starter
  2. the ambient temperature in your kitchen
  3. the type and amount of flour you’re using
  4. the hydration level of the dough...

The list goes on and on.


However, there are a number of ways to make educated guesses based on technique and observation.  Some of these include (but are not limited to):

  1. Follow the chosen recipe and its included instructions precisely.  This includes monitoring temperatures, not making any additions/subtractions/substitutions, not adding or skipping steps, and sticking as closely as possible to the timing schedule set forth in the recipe.  If your starter is mature and strong, and you follow the directions in a recipe without making substitutions, your bulk ferment  should happen right on schedule.  
  2. Benito posted an excellent tip about using an aliquot jar.  Put a small amount of your dough into a small narrow container (think juice glass or empty prescription bottle).  Press it down, mark its level, then leave near your bulk fermenting dough.  When the dough in the jar has reached whatever percent rise your recipe asks for, so has your bulk ferment.


I’m sure that many others will have more (and probably better) answers for you.  In the meantime, keep reading (knowledge is power).  Keep baking (practice makes perfect).  And keep on keepin’ on!